Head of Patapsco

AT WORK

Robin Melton manages the 16,000-acre state park in suburban Baltimore

October 10, 2007|By NANCY JONES-BONBREST | NANCY JONES-BONBREST,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Robin Melton

Park ranger and manager, Patapsco Valley State Park

Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Salary --$85,000

Age --48

Years on the job --16

How she got started --As a military wife whose husband is now retired, Melton didn't start college until she was in her late 20s. After she graduated from St. Mary's College of Maryland, she became a high school biology teacher. During her summers at college she would work as a park ranger at Calvert Cliffs State Park. Just as she was finishing up her student teaching requirement, the park service offered her a full-time job. She has since worked at Point Lookout State Park and Smallwood State Park. She began her current job at Patapsco Valley State Park in March.

Typical day --Melton said much of her day is spent indoors working on administrative duties - her office is in the park's Ellicott City headquarters. She oversees a staff of 14 during the off-season and about 50 during the summer. Besides supervising park staff and operations, she also ultimately is responsible for resource management, public safety, special event requests and handling public complaints. Agreements with different organizations and researchers who want to use the park are coordinated through her office. She must sometimes work weekends and nights, and is on call 24 hours a day.

Law enforcement officer --Melton is one of the few remaining park rangers commissioned as law enforcement officers in Maryland. About two years ago, officers from the Maryland Park Service merged with the Natural Resources Police. Melton does carry a gun, although she has never used it.

The good --"The variety," Melton said. "I don't know what my day is going to bring."

The bad --"Complaints." Typically they are worked out on the field level, but when something isn't handled properly, she's the one who ultimately has to deal with it.

Patapsco Valley State Park --Consists of 16,000 acres, 170 miles of hiking trails, five major areas used for daily activities and two campgrounds. The park is 32 miles long and includes land in Baltimore, Howard, Carroll and Anne Arundel counties.

Ghosts --No strange stories have emerged from Melton's eight months at Patapsco Valley State Park. But when she worked at Point Lookout, she used to regularly run into ghost hunters who were convinced that the park, the former site of a Civil War hospital and prison camp for Confederates, was haunted. "I never discounted that [ghosts] were there or not. It's just that I personally have never seen anything."

Still teaching --When Melton first started her job, she had an opportunity to tell visitors about the park and its history. She said she misses that aspect of the job, but still has a chance to use her teaching skills. "I teach those that teach the public directly. I feel as you move up in a job and gain experience, it's important to share that with a new and younger work force."

Philosophy on the job --Give 110 percent. "I also believe the folks that work with me are my best assets."

Nancy Jones-Bonbrest Special to The Sun

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